The next generation of Angola basketball players were on full display at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain as Angolan head coach Paulo Macedo opted to showcase his youthful talent rather then relying on his older and more experienced players that have carried and represented Angolan and African basketball proudly over the past ten years.
Enter, Yannick Moreira, the youngest player on the team at just 23-years old.
The 6’11”, 220 lbs, power forward from Luanda, Angola and current senior with the NCAA’s SMU Mustangs showcased his full potential on the last day of group play as the Palancas Negras rallied back to upset Australia 91-83 and finish off the 2014 FIBA World Cup on a high note and a 2-3 record overall record. Moreira who made his Angolan Senior Men’s National Team debut registered a tournament best 38-points and 15 rebounds on 17-of-24 (70.8%) shooting in the victory and finished the tournament as Angolan’s top scorer (17.8) and rebounder (8.2).
The ten-time African Championships who have rode the success of Joaquim “Kikas” Gomes, Olimpio Cripriano and Eduardo Mingas over the past ten years suffered a major setback when the team learned that 2013 FIBA AfroBasket MVP point guard Carlos Morais wouldn’t be able to play due to a knee injury (Morais earned a NBA training camp agreement with the Toronto Raptors). Without Morais in the picture Angola struggled to get production from their backcourt leaving head coach Macedo no other alternative but to test the waters and give his youngster more minutes as the tournament went on. Moreira led Angola in scoring in three of the five group-games and finished with two double-doubles. His only single digit game came against Lithuania.
As a junior under the tutelage of former NBA head coach Larry Brown, Moreira averaged 6.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14 minutes of playing time, he was forced to sidelines after picking-up a knee injury in early February. Before the injury Moreira displayed flashes of brilliance with six straight games in double-figures including a career-high 19 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
As a sophomore Moreira was rated the top Junior College (JUCO) prospect thanks to his 18.2 points, 9.8 rebounds per game while leading Texas’ South Plains college to two amazing seasons. He also earned MVP honors at the 2012 NJCAA national tournament after winning the championship and completing a 36-0 undefeated season.
Angola once again showed it belonged in the world basketball stage, despite falling short of its goal of qualifying for the knock-round the Palanca Negras, placed in a tough group with European heavyweights Lithuania, Slovenia along-side Oceania champs Australia, Americas champs Mexico and Korea hung tough for most games and improved during the tournament. If you remove the unexpected margin of defeat (24 pts) against Mexico, Angola lost to Lithuania (13) and Slovenia (7) by a combined 19 points.
For Moreira, sky is the limit with his senior season ready to unfold at SMU, it might just be a matter of time before we hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver mentioned these words:
“With the __ pick of the 2015 NBA Draft the __________ select Yannick Moreira from Luanda, Angola.”
If this does happen, Moreira will become the first-ever Angolan basketball player to be selected in the NBA draft.